LAS VEGAS -- Washington, D.C., attorney Michele Roberts has been voted in as the new executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, becoming the first woman to head up a major sports union.
At the close of a chaotic Monday filled with meetings, conference calls, presentations and an array of emotions, NBPA executive committee members and team player representatives cast 32 votes in favor of Roberts as the successor to the ousted Billy Hunter, six more than she needed for election.
Roberts, once called the finest pure trial lawyer in the nation's capital by Washingtonian Magazine, was one of two original finalists for the post in February before a number of players and agents -- insisting that the search for Hunter's successor needed to be broader -- convinced the union to relaunch the process.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson soon took charge of a newly formed search committee that, according to a USA Today report Monday, considered more than 300 applicants and interviewed some 70 candidates before pinpointing Roberts, fellow Washington attorney Dean Garfield and longtime Dallas Mavericks executive Terdema Ussery as its three finalists.
But at various points Monday, while the three finalists were preparing their 45-minute pitches to the assembled players, it appeared a vote might not take place, after several top agents urged their clients to push to delay the voting process again so other candidates could be considered.
By night's end, though, Roberts had won the backing of several leading agents -- Dan Fegan, Jeff Schwartz and Arn Tellem -- and collected the necessary votes to prevail in a first-ballot win. According to union bylaws, Roberts needed at least 26 of 39 votes -- from the 30 team reps and nine executive committee members -- to be declared the executive director. There were 117 players present at the meeting.
Roberts ultimately was greeted with applause when she walked into the committee board room after the results were announced.